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Making it real: MacDill personnel receive top quality pre-deployment training on location

by Senior Airman Robin Drake
Thunderbolt straff writer
High intensity training at Camp Blanding
Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

Team members from the 6th Security Forces Squadron are on the move looking for a downed pilot in a training scenario at Camp Blanding in north-central Florida July 28. This pre-deployment training was stepped up to be as realistic as possible in order to prepare the team for potential conflict when they arrive in the Middle East.

Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

Senior Airman William Butler and Staff Sgt. Brian Morrill, 6th SFS installation patrolmen, practice security procedures for enemy contact while on a simulated convoy mission during training July 25.

Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

After securing the perimeter, team members prepare to gain entry into the one of the Urban Defense Building structures during a training scenario at Camp Blanding.

Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

Training equipment worn by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Grassi, 6th SFS installation patrolman, during the field training exercise at Camp Blanding included a bullet proof vest, load bearing equipment, a Kevlar helmet, safety mask, communication equipment and gloves.

Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

After clearing the stairwell and taking out an enemy player (Master Sgt. John D. Borowski, 6th SFS) team members move out to continue the search for a downed pilot.

Members from the 6th Security Forces Squadron, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 6th Civil Engineer Squadron participated in the first field training exercise at Camp Blanding, Florida’s National Guard Military Reservation, located in north Florida, July 26 to 29.

The purpose for this exercise was to better prepare the Security Forces teams for the upcoming Aerospace Expeditionary Force deployment, said Master Sgt. John D. Borowski, 6th SFS, non-commissioned officer in charge of training and resources.

All members on the AEF rotation receive 19 hours of basic combat skills instruction, said Staff Sgt. Chuck Smith, 6th SFS, trainer. Personnel are facing similar situations at all of the deployed locations. He said this training provides each individual the ability to defend themselves and make them combat ready.

“Team members participating in the FTX receive additional instruction which is tailored to meet specific needs for the location they were deploying too,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff R. Gullion, 6th SFS, instructor.

The week-long exercise began July 25 with classroom refresher instruction. Topics included call for fire and/or medical evacuation, and convoy and vehicle operations.

Another topic included crater analysis where students were taken to a secure location on-base and given an opportunity to observe several demolition demonstrations performed by 6th CES Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel.

The 22-person team departed the following day with all the equipment and supplies needed for the exercise. Each team member was issued training gear, which included a bullet proof vest, load bearing equipment, a Kevlar helmet, safety mask, knee and elbow pads, paintball gun and ammunition, and communication equipment.

After arriving at Camp Blanding, the team set up its barracks and received safety briefings. Team members then received patrolling and land navigation training.

On the third day of training, members reported to the Urban Defense Building training site for Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain training. The purpose for MOUT training is to create scenarios to help familiarize individuals with urban warfare. The hands-on training included basic fire team movements, door and window entry, clearing stairwells and tunnels, “man down” drills, immediate action drills and reaction to sniper or mortar fire drills.

Airmen from the 6th LRS vehicle operations element and the 6th CES/EOD element provided additional support during the exercise by role playing as the enemy during exercise scenarios.

“We came out here not only to assist Security Forces with convoy and vehicle operations training but to also do a site survey and check out the facilities for future exercises,” said Staff Sgt. Ray S. Magno, 6th LRS, vehicle operator.

Sergeant Magno recently returned from a deployment where he performed convoy operations. He said the training is good for any individual who may be deployed because a very real potential exists where they may be tasked for a convoy mission.

Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Herrera, 6th CES, EOD element NCOIC of operations and training, taught the team how to identify Improvised Explosive Devices and booby traps.

“The weapon of choice is becoming IEDs and in most cases these IEDs are booby-trapped to be more effective,” said Sergeant Herrera.

Sergeant Herrera said he hopes the training will always stay embedded in the back of the team’s mind when breaching structures.

The final day of training at Camp Blanding was composed of three exercise scenarios. The first scenario began in the morning with a rehearsal exercise. The teams were able to practice the skills and techniques they had learned during the week from both classroom instruction and field training. The second scenario was a practical exercise where instructors provided feedback and assistance to help improve performance quality for the upcoming final scenario which took take place that evening.

For the final scenario the team conducted a patrol from start to finish with no assistance from instructors.

“The team had to plan the patrol and all of the elements involved. We (instructors) evaluated their performance during the scenario,” said Sergeant Smith.

All of the individuals involved worked together as a team and as a result performed well, said Sergeant Borowski.

“The Security Forces’ mission is law enforcement, security and air-base defense but with the Air Force becoming more expeditionary everyday our people need this additional training before deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Eddie Ray, 6th SFS, instructor.

Those who participated in the FTX at Camp Blanding believe it is a stepping stone toward improving how pre-deployment training is conducted in the future for all individuals.

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